The final stretch for the Bretagne-Pays de la Loire high speed rail link

The final stretch for the Bretagne-Pays de la Loire high speed rail link

In 2017, Eiffage will be concentrating its final efforts on the Bretagne-Pays de la Loire (BPL) high speed rail link, the biggest project ever undertaken by the Group. Some 214 km of new railway lines have been built as part of the public private contract signed on 28 July 2011 with SNCF Réseau. The link will connect Paris to Rennes in less than 90 minutes, when it enters into service on 2 July 2017. 

The BPL high speed rail link site is a fantastic showcase, mobilising up to 4,500 people at the height of the works and, following on from the Perpignan-Figueras high-speed rail link and the A65 Pau-Langon motorway projects, it confirms Eiffage’s position as a lead contractor capable of executing very large turnkey projects. 

The BPL high speed rail link between Le Mans (Sarthe) and Rennes (Ille-et-Vilaine), is a record-breaking project. In terms of civil engineering works, it required 26 million cubic metres of earthworks, 227 civil engineering structures, 11 viaducts, 7 cut and cover sections and 5 grade separations, built by teams from the Infrastructures division between 2012 and 2014. 

Once the civil engineering platform was completed, the railway tracks could be laid, including ballast, sleepers and rails. Begun in 2014, these works were completed in 2016. “From February to April 2016, we worked on establishing the definitive level of the track, then a team of around thirty people installed the fifty lots of  track equipment (points) required to operate the line,” explains Patrick Havard, project manager in charge of track laying. The final stage involved “freeing” the track, a process that consists of fixing the stresses within the track at a reference temperature of 25°C.
During this time, Eiffage Énergie, mobilised 700 people to install all the other railway equipment: two electrical sub-stations and 13 terminals to supply traction power, cable systems for networks and fibre optic cabling, 26 GSMR masts for the telecommunications network, 18 technical buildings, three railway signalling systems (TVM300, ERTMS I and II), deployment of catenaries along the track, remote monitoring and security systems. The unwavering mobilisation of the teams enabled the line to be powered up in autumn 2016, in accordance with the initial schedule: “The motivation and dedicated of the teams was crucial to our success” says Sidoine Serraj, project manager at Eiffage Énergie. 

On 21 November 2016 the test campaign, including the speed trials, could begin. At the end of January 2017, the entire current section of the line was qualified at 352 km/h – in other words the maximum commercial speed of 320 km/h plus 10%. This was a new stage in the process to obtain authorisation for commercial operation (Amec), prior to commissioning.

Environmental offsetting works will also be completed by the end of February. For the first time on a major infrastructure project, implementation of these measures will be completed prior to commissioning; confirming that Eiffage is the “best environmental option”, as indicated by SNCF Réseau at the time the contract was signed. Indeed, 218 hectares of woodlands have been replanted, with 477 hectares of protected species habitat and 280 hectares of wetland areas being recreated. In total, 974 hectares of environmental compensation have been developed, which is 5% more than the original objective. Moreover, almost 300 structures have been incorporated to facilitate the movement of animals from one side of the BPL to the other, reinstating ‘ecological corridors” that had been crossed. It is also worth noting that planting efforts undertaken for this project include 1,200,000 trees planted, which is six trees for every metre of high speed rail line. 

Once commercial operation authorisation has been granted, Opere, the subsidiary in charge of maintenance, will take up its responsibilities and ensure maintenance of the line until 2036. Opere will operate out of two railway works bases located in Auvers-le-Hamon (near Sablé-sur-Sarthe) and Saint-Berthevin (near Laval), where the COBPL supervision centre that will monitor and control the smooth operation of the BPL high speed rail link is located.